A challenge turns a family into entrepreneurs
By Keri Luise
When a mom and dad of two toddlers struggled with traditional methods for teaching good behavior, they invented their own high-tech teaching tool. And it turned out to be such a good idea, Anne Arundel County is putting $100,000 behind it.
Crownsville-based company Plus Up LLC has been awarded the six-figure loan from the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation’s (AAEDC) VOLT Growth Fund for their product “Goodtimer.” And the new company has already been recognized by Amazon among just a handful of innovators nationwide.
Goodtimer is an educational toy that encourages kids to form healthy habits using positive reinforcement, tangible incentives, and family participation, says Adam Ashley, founder and CEO of Plus Up LLC.
Around the time their oldest of two sons turned two, Ashley and his wife faced their “toughest parenting challenge”—raising well-behaved children. They struggled with temper tantrums, picky eaters, and in general just getting their kids to listen, especially in the morning and during the bedtime routine. “At first we tried timeouts, but we hated feeling like the ‘bad guys’ and timeouts just didn’t work at correcting the problem behaviors,” he says.
They had read a lot about positive parenting methods, but never found an effective product to help implement those methods.
“With a background in consumer products, I could see that there was an incredible opportunity for an effective and easy-to-use product that could encourage kids to improve their behavior in a way that was fun for the whole family,” Ashley says.
The idea for Goodtimer came to during a PTA fundraising event for their son’s elementary school. The event was at a local roller skating rink with an arcade where the kids earned tickets playing games and then exchanged the tickets for prizes.
“I remember being blown away by how excited they got when they earned the tickets and got to choose what they can exchange them for,” Ashley says. “There’s just something really powerful for kids about playing a game with a clear objective, earning a tangible incentive, and then having the independence to choose how to spend it.”
Ashley describes the Goodtimer as a chore chart reinvented for modern families with an automatic allowance built right in. Kids respond to Goodtimer’s brightly glowing lights, token incentives, and encouraging voice, with game-style functionality that’s interactive and simple enough for toddlers to understand.
The clock-like companion is intended for ages 3-10. When children make good choices, they turn their Goodtimer on and it begins tracking Good Time. Its display contains 12 illuminated glowing segments, similar to the hands of a clock. As the child continues to follow house rules and earn more Good Time, more segments light up, showing the child’s progress. When all segments are filled, the child earns a Goodtimer token which can be saved and exchanged for additional incentives decided by the family.
“We believe all parents are doing their best to raise healthy, well-behaved children who will grow up and make a positive impact on society,” Ashley says. “However, our research shows that many parents just don’t have the knowledge and/or resources needed to effectively address the challenging behaviors their children exhibit.”
AAEDC’s mission to help businesses like Ashley’s grow. It works “as a catalyst for business growth”, increasing job opportunities, expanding the tax base, and improving citizens’ quality of life,” says Rosa Cruz, AAEDC Vice President of Communications.
Part of this mission includes assisting early-stage innovative companies, so that they can scale their products, maximize market opportunities and create jobs, Cruz says.
The VOLT Growth Fund specifically aims to help Maryland tech companies that are in the early stages.“The VOLT Growth Fund offers favorable payment terms that will allow a business such as Goodtimer to grow its revenue and facilitate future equity investment,” Cruz says.
Ashley says that they have already started to put the Growth Fund capital to fund several major marketing initiatives for the back-to-school season as well as the holiday season.
Goodtimer has also been awarded an Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant.
According to Ashley, this has been “the most meaningful award we’ve received. We were one of just two companies selected by Amazon amongst thousands of launchpad brands that received the grant in March 2021 and to be recognized by Amazon.com, the world’s largest retailer, as a standout innovator was a big honor for us.”